Archive for March, 2012

As traditional media continue to decline, it’s time for bloggers to step up

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

[Update: This post originally stated that Westword’s Michael Roberts is responsible for eight blog posts per day, written by himself and other staff, on the Latest Word blog. Due to poor reporting on my part, I got this wrong. He is actually responsible for eight posts himself, Roberts kindly tells me, adding that Westword aims for at least 12 posts per day on Latest word, eight by Roberts and four or more by others.]

As The Denver Post sinks and shrinks, there’s no getting around the fact that, even if you hate them, bloggers become more important as opinion (and information) providers.

So I thought this would be a good moment to offer up some tips on blogging from Colorado bloggers, to inspire more and better blogging

For some reason, it took me about 15 minutes to write those two lousy sentences, which is around 14 minutes more than Westword Latest Word blogger Michael Roberts would have probably required.

“I’d love to write more slowly and linger over words and phrases, but in this context you have to open up the channel, receive and send. It’s not like you have the luxury to spend 10 or 15 minutes on a sentence.”

I called Roberts at about 1:30 p.m. Friday. He’d posted 10 items during the day, but he said, “I’ll be damned if I know how.”

“At the end of the day, if I were asked to tell you every post I wrote, I would be unable to do so.”

If you follow Roberts, you know he’s in a league by himself, among Colorado bloggers, in terms of productivity. He told me that being curious is a big help in writing so much.

But I wondered about his typing speed. Without meaning to diminish the quality of his writing, I asked if he was a really fast typist.

“I am a quick typist,” he told me. “One of my stock lines is. If I ever lose this job, I’d have a decent shot at a gig as an executive secretary.”

“I have at least one more [blog post] to do before I’m done for the day,” he said as we ended our brief conversation. He’d exceeded his daily target of eight posts, including four with an original concept and content, but, he said, “Damn it, news didn’t stop. There are a couple of things I really need to do.”

Asked for her advice on blogging, Denver Post blogger Lynn Bartels provided me with this blogger-sized list:

1. Employ nouns.

2. Add art.

3. Mix it up, between the lighthearted and the serious.

Bloggers like to refer back to their own work as early and often as possible, to cut down on typing and to get more mileage out of existing content, and that’s what Bartels did in answer to my question.

“I wrote a number of serious posts last fall about redistricting and reapportionment, including breaking news about new maps,” Bartels wrote me. “But I also had fun. Here’s one of my favorites, simply because of the picture and the cutline: [CLICK HERE].

My favorite recent blog: [CLICK HERE].

ColoradoPols‘ Co-founder Jason Bane said, via email:

The best advice I can give is to keep your writing short and simple. There’s no reason to write 5,000 words if you can make your point in 500, but that’s easier said than done. Most journalists and reporters will tell you that it is actually easier to write 5,000 words than 500, because you have to spend more time thinking about how to get quickly to the point. People don’t visit blogs because they are looking for long-form writing, and the longer you write, the less time you have to write something else.

I agree with Bane, but one trick is to get others to write for you. That’s why I’m grateful to Bane and the others for emailing me their responses to my questions. Unfortunately Westword’s Roberts won’t do email interviews, because he says he writes too much as it is. So I had to talk to him, which is better anyway, if you have the time.

Bane also wrote:

I believe it is also important to stick to a theme as much as possible. Whether you are writing about politics or about yarn, don’t stray too often from your central topic. Think about why readers are coming to your website. If someone visits your yarn blog, they aren’t going to keep coming back if you are always writing about sports, wine, and why you think Spring is the best of the four seasons.

Rossputin’s Ross Kaminsky had these tips:

Write up something just before bed, for posting the next morning. Even better, wake up a few minutes earlier and check the news to write something with maximum newsworthiness.

If you have more than one idea, write them all up, but post-date them so you can cover a couple of days at a time.

It’s widely agreed that posting content early in the day, with edgy headlines, attracts more readers. (And in Colorado, throw in the phrase “medical marijuana” as often as possible.)

Kaminsky continued:

People won’t return to sites which disappoint them with stale material more than a time or two Therefore, don’t bother blogging unless you have something new almost every day, and certainly every work day other than occasional vacations. If you can’t meet that level of supply of writing, try to participate in a group blog (such as Peoples Press Collective, for those of a free market/libertarian/conservative bent.)

Try to find an approach or style of analysis that is sufficiently different from other web sites that your writing will stand out as worth reading. Be honest about your ability to do so. Most people can’t. Like it or not, most people don’t really have enough to add to a discussion that they’re worth taking your time to read. Again, be honest about whether your writing is really different and incisive enough to be worth reading.

Quoting other people and unique sources is usually the best way to keep a blog worth reading. So even if you hated my take on things in this piece, which I wrote for posting during a vacation, at least you heard something from somebody else. With traditional journalism dying, that’s what we need most from bloggers, if they have the time.

Conservative talk-radio hosts turn off not only women but also Hispanics

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Conservative talk-radio hosts are obviously a big part of the reason the Republican Party has a problem with women voters.

But they’re also a serious drag on the GOP’s appeal to Hispanics.

I’m still looking for that immigrant who came to America who had a burning desire for free birth control,” said KLZ talk-radio host Jason Worley on the air Wednesday. “I haven’t found them yet. If we do find them, I will offer to put them on the air, so we can get the ditsy college girl from Illinois who can come on and go, ‘Yah, what I’d like for freedom and liberty is, ahh, free birth control, Yeah me!'”

This elicited laughter not only from co-host Ken Clark but also from Pauline Olvera, a vice chair of the Denver Republican Party.

Olvera is also on the Board of Directors for Colorado Hispanic Republicans, a new group trying to recruit Colorado Hispanics to join the GOP.

Asked by Worley “what message is catching on in those Hispanic communities,” Olvera answered:

Well, we don’t really talk about [Republican] party issues,” she said.

One wonders why. Do Hispanics maybe dislike Republican issues? Worley didn’t ask, and Olvera flew up to a cruising altitude of 5,000 feet and waxed broad and meaningless.

“We talk about our values,” she told Worley. Our values are faith, family, freedom, individual freedom. And those are very strong values in our Hispanic community. And those values are exactly what the Republican stands for. So when we talk about those things, it clicks, right away. A lot of small business owners are in our community. They want a really good education for their children. They want choices in the education of their children.”

So why is Olvera’s organization opposing legislation that would give the top-achieving children of undocumented parents a break on college tuition in Colorado? How does that comport with giving Hispanic children choice and freedom? 

Worley didn’t ask, but you get the feeling he understood the problem his party faces with Hispanics, when it comes to real-life issues, because he did ask Olvera, “What kind of resistance, if any, do you find to the quote-unquote Republican Party?”

Well, she answered, you know there is always going to be, for the time being, that little bit of a negative connotation to the Republican name, unfortunately.”

Full stop. You’d think Worley would have wanted to delve into this a bit. Is it because Hispanics understand that freedom is meaningless without opportunity? Opportunities provided by stuff like the college tuition bill, Obamacare, and government protections that create the kind of level playing field that give immigrants a chance?

Worley didn’t ask, so Olvera continued:

We go out there and we just start talking to people. And asking them questions about their values. And doing surveys and stuff. And we’re going to be going to Cinco de Mayo in May. And we’re going to have our booth up there. And we’ll have our nice big banner. We’re going to be bringing people along and inviting them to our meet-and-greets.

Great. The organization plans to fly a big banner a couple months from now. Nothing fired in Worley’s mind to make him as the question, “Where’s the substance?”

So on went Olvera:

The reason we all came to this country is because of individual freedom. We left tyranny and dictatorship.  I think people are starting to wake up and see America kind of going toward the type of government immigrants are leaving and starting to resonate with our message.”

Olvera’s statement is so out there, along the lines of a GOP state Senator comparing Obama to Hitler last week, that I doubt it’s ever been put to Hispanics in any of the gazillion polls Olvera is obviously thinking of when she talks about the “values” Hispanics embrace.

Again, one wonders about the specifics here, but Worley didn’t ask for any.

Which was probably good for Olvera’s cause, because if Worley and Olvera tried to explain with a few details why America is heading toward dictatorship, probably citing stuff like Obamacare, Medicare, worker protections, etc., basically government acting on behalf of people, they’d be offering up a list of reasons Hispanics are known to dislike the GOP. Of course, I could be wrong, but with shallow interviews like this one, we’ll never know.

Post Editorial Page Editor says offering “wide variety” of views remains a priority with Littwin gone

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

I just wrote Mike Littwin a thank-you e-mail for being such a reliable source of amazement and inspiration for so many years. I mean, how lucky was Denver to have a writer of his caliber for so long at a daily newspaper?

What he wrote about didn’t matter. That’s why my Republican mother-in-law, who doesn’t read my blog, kept telling me how much she loved him, even though she hates Obama so much she can barely contain herself once she gets going.

I hope Littwin somehow lands somewhere else in town, but meanwhile, without cheapening the loss of Littwin and others at the Post, you have to wonder about the op-ed page at The Denver Post now.

Littwin and Vince Carroll balanced each other out on the page, as former Post Editorial Page Editor Dan Haley told me last year when I pointed out, with careful bean counting, that The Post op-ed page was more balanced with Harsanyi gone.

Haley told me at the time:

Locally, as of next week, we will have two main op-ed columnists (Carroll/Littwin) who will write 12 columns a month from the right and left. That’s balance.

I emailed The Post’s Editorial Page Editor Curtis Hubbard this morning, and after expressing my sadness about the layoffs and telling him I didn’t want to cheapen Littwin by looking ahead while Littwin’s chair on the editorial board is still warm, I asked Hubbard how he’ll balance the commentary page now that Littwin’s columns, blogs, and tweets are gone?

He replied:

We’ve still got a lot to sort through here, but providing a wide variety of voices and viewpoints remains a priority or the op-ed page.


Should elected officials talk to all journalists, progressive, conservative, or rabid?

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Secretary of State Scott Gessler recently made an appearance Colorado’s flagship Tea-Party radio show, KLZ’s Grassroots Radio Colorado.

I was jealous because Gessler’s office won’t talk to me, and it’s possible that even my audience of three people is bigger than KLZ’s.

But it made me feel a little bit better when I found out that Gessler’s also boycotting the Colorado Independent and AM760’s David Sirota show, as I’ll explain below.

Still, it raises the question of whether it matters all that much that a conservative elected official, not just Gessler but any of them, boycotts progressive media outlets. Or whether a progressive office holder should feel obligated to talk to conservative media types.

If I were Gessler, I’d look at the actual work of the journalist or media person who’s requesting the interview. If their work shows them to be unfair, inaccurate, and generally unconcerned about civil discourse, then an elected official can justify not talking to them.

For my part, I can’t help but be nicer to people if they let me interview them. I normally try to be fair, but I’m even more careful if I actually talk to someone. I like to think most writers are this way.

I asked progressive columnist and talk-show host David Sirota for his thoughts on this broad topic. According to John Turk, producer of the David Sirota Show on AM 760, Gessler spokesman Rich Coolidge told him last week, just after Gessler appeared on Grassroots Radio Colorado, that Gessler had “no interest” in coming on Sirota’s show to talk about possible voter fraud.

Sirota emailed me:

My view is that the best elected officials are those who make themselves available to the widest possible audience of their constituents. In Colorado, though, that’s the exception (Ed Perlmutter is one for instance), not the norm. Here, most politicians see themselves – and carry themselves – as if they are part of an elite country club. They typically only make themselves available to their friends in the media who they know won’t ask them a single substantive or hard-hitting question – those who will simply propagandize for their agenda and kiss their ass in a very public way. I’m not surprised by that. I’m a journalist, and genuine journalism is a threat to those in power who are either ashamed of their behavior or who shouldn’t have to answer to anyone. Most of the politicians in the state know that regardless of party, I don’t pull punches and will ask them tough questions, and so many of them avoid my show. I see that as a badge of honor.

The Colorado Independent’s John Tomasic has also gotten the cold shoulder from Gessler. Tomasic offered these thoughts in an email:

The question of officeholder responsiveness matters mostly in its relationship to accountability.

It seems obvious that when people elected to office are willing to go on public record regularly on topics big and small and to field unscripted questions, it’s always a good sign for the city or state or country they’re serving. As any fair-minded person in a position of authority knows, explaining your actions means making the case for them. If you can do that well, you gain legitimacy for those actions and support for them and cooperation to bring off your grand plans.

The energy it takes to explain yourself, even in fraught political or business environments, is worth it

Our secretary of state is a longtime controversial figure. It’s my opinion that he revels in it. He’s a courtroom attorney. I like that about him, the fact that he’s a fighter, if for no other reason than he’s fun to write about. Unfortunately, in office, it seems clear he is increasingly adopting what has become a familiar approach to the media on the right, which is to malign the media and retreat into a silo of friendly outlets while delivering an occasional stock quote to the paper of record. That just seems like a short-haul strategy to me.

Gessler is not a  representative from some very conservative district.

He is a state officeholder. The topics he deals with every day as secretary of state are enormously important for all the citizens of Colorado. He oversees voting, campaign finance rules– really basic stuff that is of equal interest to citizens all across the political spectrum. For that reason alone, he is a person of interest for everyone reporting about politics in this state: newspaper people, broadcast people, bloggers, etc, and he has a crack staff of communication experts at his disposal. Use them, I say! Let’s hear more every day from spokespeople Rich and Andrew at the secretary of state’s office. Turn those guys loose! “Free Rich!” “Free Andrew!”

Granted, the media is a player in the political process and dealing with the media as an elected official can certainly be like navigating a mine field. It’s only my opinion but, as someone who has watched this politics-media tug of war with keen interest for years and who has watched big political stories unfold from the inside, as an editor and reporter, I can say that the subjects of those stories would have nearly always fared better by talking to the reporters writing the stories.

I’m reporting on the war over voting laws that has taken the nation by storm in the past two years. Gessler has put himself on the frontlines of that war, proposing major changes to our state election rules. So I’ll keep asking questions. Maybe some day soon, I’ll get a response.

Meantime, I’m developing a cordial and, I must say, fruitful relationship with the secretary’s office conducted via the Colorado Open Records Act. It could be worse.

I’m ready to join the “Free Rich” campaign, and I’m thinking about offering myself up for the dunk tank at the first “Free Rich” fundraiser.

But as Tomasic illustrates, part of the trick of journalism is to find ways to get information when you can’t get it mouth-to-mouth. Who else knows? What documents are available? Getting blacklisted for interviews, even in an apparently partisan manner from the Secretary of State, is how it  goes.

And obviously both parties do this. Gov. John Hickenlooper won’t go on KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman show, the hosts allege on air. Though he’s on KOA’s Mike Rosen’s Show monthly.

Rep. Scott Tipton isn’t talking to the tea-party-leaning radio program, the Cari and Rob Show. But Tipton’s Democratic challenger Sal Pace will go on the show.

KHOW’s Peter Boyles likes to say no elected official will go on his show anymore, though I heard Rep. Chris Holbert and Sen. Ted Harvey on Boyles’ show Feb. 15 to discuss their gun bills.

Mitt Romney skipped over all the major Denver media last month, eliciting an admirable Howard-Beale-like outcry from Fox 31 political reporter Eli Stokols.

It’s always been this way, you’d say. But the changes in the media make the situation worse for real people (who stopped reading this blog post before the first paragraph, even though I put “rabid” in the title to lure them in).

With the major media in decline, and more small outlets lining up along ideological lines, many people are less likely to hear from elected officials they disagree with.

Progressives, for example, who consume news from progressive news outlets, won’t be hearing from Scott Gessler directly any time soon, it appears.

That’s not good, and you have to think it will get worse, because, politically, Gessler can write off the left, talk to his conservative base, and try to reach moderates through other means, which may or may not include The Denver Post in the long run.

Under this scenario, how does the partisan divide do anything but get wider?

To be fair, and this is my attempt at ending on a hopeful note, I should tell you that even after Gessler’s office rejected my own interview requests, Gessler was willing to speak with me when I approached him after a speech  he gave at Colorado Christian University. I told him I was a liberal blogger, and he still spoke with me.

In the semi-public setting, maybe he felt a responsibility, as an elected official, not to turn away from me?

But,  like Westword, I didn’t ask him the right follow-up question. Who knows if I’ll get another chance?

Westword, Statesman aren’t Schmucks; pick up extreme GOP comments

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

I blogged March 14 about how bizarre it was that, apparently, no news outlets had picked up on ColoradoPols video of Colorado Republicans (Tim Neville) comparing Hitler to Obama, (Ted Harvey) saying a mandate for health insurance coverage of contraception leads to “genocide,” (Ken Lambert) saying such a policy is “mind control,” and (Scott Renfroe) saying the policy could lead to a government takeover of the church.

Oh, I forgot to note that all of those Republicans are elected members of the Colorado Senate, making them impossible to ignore from a public-interest, journalistic point of view–kind of like Tom Tancredo running for President.

I uploaded my piece prior to the publication date of the Colorado Statesman, which reported the GOP comments March 16, as well as additional remarks by Sen. Greg Brophy, who seems to be a quote machine for thoughts harkening back to the 1950’s.

Last week Brophy tweeted:

Ms. Fluke, I don’t want to buy your booze, pay for your spring break or your birth control. Call your Dad for that.”

Then the Statesman reported:

Brophy told The Colorado Statesman that before he sent his Twitter update, he knew the comment would likely spark animosity and criticism, but he said he felt it was necessary to send a strong message since he only had 140 characters to do so, as is the limit with the Twitter technology

“When you’re limited by 140 characters, either you make a point, or you don’t make a point… The discussion is over whether it’s appropriate to hand out birth control to 18-year-old coeds on campus… I don’t think it sells the college experience to mom and dad looking to send their kid to that school,” said Brophy.

Brophy doesn’t mention Hitler, as you can see, which might explain why he didn’t get “Schmuck of the Week” honors from Westword’s Patricia Calhoun, though you might think he deserves it.

Sen. Tim Neville got the Schmuck award for his deep Hitler comment.

Westword posted Pols’ video of Neville on its website, making it the only news outlet to do so. I’m tempted to call the Denver news media a bunch of Schmucks (with the exception of Westword and the Statesman), but I won’t.

Reporters should correct Tipton’s facts when he claims that Obamacare cuts $500 billion from Medicare and hurts seniors

Friday, March 16th, 2012

This got lost on my to-do list, but even if it’s late, and not exactly a new topic, I’m gonna write a quick blog post about Rep. Scott Tipton’s statement, paraphrased in the Pueblo Chieftain last month, that Obamacare’s “target of shrinking future Medicare costs by $500 billion over a decade would ultimately mean the government denying senior citizens needed medical services.”

Numerous fact checkers have shown this to be false.

For example, Pulitzer-Prize winning Politifact reported June 15, 2011:

Also, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, tagged Obamacare by critics, doesn’t eliminate benefits.

Indeed, portions of the law improve benefits and coverage, according to Tricia Neuman, director of the Medicare Policy Project at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit health care research organization. Medicare will cover more preventive health care services, such as wellness visits, and recipients won’t face the “doughnut hole” gap in prescription coverage imposed under an existing Medicare program.

Other provisions reduce the growth in Medicare spending by helping the program operate more efficiently and fund other coverage expansions to the uninsured. Other provisions are designed to improve the delivery of care and quality of care, Neuman has said.

In another article, Politifact found the statement, “The new health care law ‘will cut $500 billion from Medicare. That will hurt the quality of our care,’ ” to be deep in its “Mostly false” category, which is as deeply false as its ratings go.

Fact checkers at the Washington Post also found that the $500 billion is saved in Medicare efficiences which are “wrung from health-care providers, not Medicare beneficiaries.”

In last month’s article, that I quoted above, The Chieftain did not report that Tipton’s statement about Medicare cuts under Obamacare was false.

But in the past, to its credit, it has put the number in context, showing different ways journalists deal with the misleading use of the $500-billion figure.

Oct. 29, 2010, the Chieftain reported:

“…[Tipton]  repeated his charge that Salazar and Democrats want to cut $500 billion from Medicare — a cut that Tipton said would hurt seniors. That part of the legislation calls for reducing the growth in Medicare expenses by $500 billion over 10 years by eliminating fraud and waste.

Oct. 7, 2010, the Chieftain reported:

Tipton has shot back, accusing Salazar of supporting a $500 billion cut in Medicare — a reference to the Democratic health care legislation that requires the future growth in Medicare expenses to be reduced by $500 billion over 10 years. A reduction in future growth is not a cut in the current Medicare program.

This kind of reporting  is more fair than letting Tipton’s allegations hang unchallenged. But journalists should also include the fact that benefits under Medicare will not be affected.

Here’s another way Chieftain reporter Peter Roper, who wrote all the articles I cite in this blog post, dealt with the $500-billion figure. This actually might be the best approach journalistically, because it focuses on what Republicans themselves have said. But it requires more space than a simple fact check.

On June 28, 2011, the Chieftain pointed out that Republicans first ridiculed the $500 billion figure as being imaginary, and then they switched course and declared that it was a real cut that would hurt seniors.

In an article about a Democratic ad targeting Tipton, the Chieftain reported:

[Tipton] reached back to the 2010 election debate over health care, noting that the Obama administration was touting cutting future Medicare costs by $500 billion over a decade.

At the time, Republicans scoffed that such savings were imaginary in the Democratic legislation intended to broaden health care coverage.

“The Democrats ended Medicare as we know it when they cut $500 billion from it,” Tipton said in a statement sent to reporters Monday.

Aug. 26, 2011, the Chieftain similarly reported:

Two years ago, Republicans ridiculed President Barack Obama’s health care legislation for claiming it would lower the deficit by reducing future Medicare expenses by $500 billion over time. Now they’ve embraced that number as a Democratic cut in the popular health insurance program for seniors… “(Democrats) took $500 billion from Medicare,” Tipton replied…

You want reporters to correct any factual errors in quotations that appear in their work. This is not always practical, unfortunately, for reporters these days.

But when reporting statements that are obviously politically charged, and are easily found to be false or lacking in context, reporters should set the record straight. Tipton’s allegation about Medicare falls into this category.

The $500-billion figure will almost certainly come up again, and when it does, given the sensitivity of the issues involved, it’s only fair for reporters to present a factual statement about the issue, and/or to ask Tipton to provide proof for his allegations about Medicare.

Crank’s personal history on Ref C brings emotional punch to segment on GOP Senate primary

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

There’s a personal quality to talk radio that lends itself to emotion.

Take for example this segment on KVOR’s Jeff Crank Show March 10 about the Senate District 10 primary between Republicans Owen Hill and Rep. Larry Liston.

You can snooze through a lot of talk radio, but not this type of discussion. Crank gets upset, and so do his callers, and you can feel the anger.

When El Paso Country Republicans get mad at each other, Ref C often makes an appearance, as it does here with Crank saying that Hill is falsely acusing Liston of having voted for Ref C. Liston, who was a guest on the show, says he voted against it in the state legislature.

Crank said on air that he was ready to host an on-air debate between Liston and Hill.

 But when Crank gave Hill four possible dates for an on air-debate, Hill rejected all of them, Crank told his listeners.  Hill would only debate after the county assembly, he said.

Then this from Crank:

“Last I checked, this is not the Owen Hill show,” said Crank on air. ” This is the Jeff Crank Show, and I decide when you come on and when you don’t come on.  And you don’t call me and demand that, ‘Well, I’ll come on your show but only after this.’  That means you’re forfeiting your right to come on the show.  You come on when I ask.  I decide the topics, not you.

“And what kind of an elected official would that be, by the way, if he’s telling you, ‘Oh, I’m going to call in on this day but not this day.  I’m going to decide when I do this, as opposed to something else.  I’m sorry, that’s just not the way it works here on this show.   When I decide that we’re going to have a debate, that’s when we’re going to have it.  And you either show up, or you don’t show up. Okay?  So, let’s be real clear about that.”

“Second… I gotta tell you, I think there’s an honesty problem here.  Because I have been repeatedly told, and people in our community who I respect, people like Steve Schuck, and many others have asked whether a certain person named John Hoteling was working for Owen Hill, and he tells them, ‘no’.  Because he has a checkered past, you see. He was Doug Lamborn’s campaign manager, ran the slime against me; he and his brother Mark Hoteling, ran the slime against me.  So he doesn’t want everyone to know.”

On the radio, Crank said that Sen. Ted Harvey supports Hill and that Harvey wrote on Facebook that Hoteling is Hill’s camaign guru.

“I was around when Ref C was going,” Crank said on air. “And I was falsely accused of supporting Ref C. So I know what’s it’s like.”

Extreme comments by Colorado GOP deserve more media attention than Limbaugh’s slams against women

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Rush Limbaugh’s 1950’s-era comments last week, calling a woman a “slut” for believing that her health insurance should cover birth control, came from the mouth of…Rush Limbaugh, an unelected publicity hound/entertainer of the first order.

And Limbaugh’s extremism got all kinds of coverage, locally and nationally.

Then ColoradoPols broke a story yesterday about extreme comments at home in Colorado, by elected Republican legislators at a rally on the west steps of the Capitol.

Pols posted videotape of GOP speakers, including Sen. Tim Neville comparing Nazi Germany to the Obama Administration. Other video clips consisted of, as described by Pols:

“Sen. Harvey declaring that a program of mandating contraceptive coverage is “not a slippery slope, but a cliff” to “genocide somewhere down the road.” Sen. Lambert called the policy “mind control,” and read from a right-wing column warning that the same authority could be used to force the purchase of “euthanasia pills.” Not to be outdone, Sen. Renfroe said that it could to a situation “where England was when their king decided he needed to rule the church.”

Reporters who didn’t make it to the rally should go back and cover these comments, handily posted on Pols, to air them out. That’s what journalism is about.

It’s obvious to me that the statements by elected GOP  officials deserved more attention from the local media than Limbaugh’s comments, weird as they were.  They’re elected officials. Maybe they’re publicity hounds too, but still.

Candidates like Joe Coors who make extreme comments in secondary media outlets, like talk radio, also deserve media scrutiny when they go off. There’s not much public-interest value in reporting that KNUS talk-show host Steve Kelly thinks Obamacare is leading to a government takeover of the individual, but when Joe Coors, who’s running against Rep. Ed Perlmutter, says it, it’s news.

Here’s what Coors said on KNUS’ Kelley and Company yesterday:

Kelley: How big an issue is [Obamacare] in this race?

Coors: It’s huge…. Governments that have controlled health care in their countries basically own the individual. And we cannot let Obamacare legislation dictate our lives in any matter shape or form, and I’m very much opposed to it and would certainly vote to repeal it or defund it or whatever I could do when I get back there. [BigMedia emphasis]

Kelley: You make a great point. Yeah. Think about that. If someone could make a decision on your health and decisions on your health, they have total control over you.

Coors: Yes, sir.

Listen here to Joe Coors on KNUS 3-13-2012 say Obamacare leads to total control of the individual.

A reporter might ask a veteran getting VA coverage if he or she feels the government owns him.  Or a Brit, or to a lesser degree a Canadian or someone on Medicare, for that matter. And what does government control over healthcare have to do with mild-mannered Obamacare anyway?

With depleted staff, reporters at legacy news outlets can’t be everywhere and do everything like they could before, or at least try to. They should throw out any hesitancy to use material from places like Pols or talk radio, if the material is verifiable and newsworthy.

For example, I was just listening to a podcast of Grassroots Radio Colorado from Monday, in which  Sen. Neville describes how he prepared his comments about Nazi’s and the Obama Administration for the rally.

He said:

I was doing some research last night, and I was putting my notes together [for his speech at the rally] and of course you pull things apart. You don’t like this. You don’t like that. And you know I was looking at the rise of Hitler in Nazi Germany and the parallels I was seeing were pretty scary.

What’s scary to me is how many of us, including smart reporters, are ignoring this stuff.

CO Springs talk-radio host and former GOP House candidate wonders whether Fluke’s “birth control” includes “hotel room” and “cigarettes afterwards”

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Two days after Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” Colorado Springs talk-radio host Jimmy Lakey asked his listeners if they thought Fluke spent her “birth control” money on “cigarettes afterwards,” “booze,” and a “hotel room.”

Lakey, who ran for Congress in the 2010 Republican primary for Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s seat, said he couldn’t believe that Fluke spends $3,000 per year on birth control. He did the math and calculated her monthly birth-control expenditure to be $249.

From there, Lakey went into a jag March 4 on his 740 KVOR talk show about how in the world Fluke’s birth control could cost so much?

Lakey:  Two hundred and forty nine dollars a month.  That’s … Does that include the booze?  Does that include the cigarettes afterwards?  I mean, what does that include?

Guest Nathan Fisk:  It’s gotta include something other than prophylactics, I’m sorry…

Lakey:  Does that include the hotel room?  Does that include….  I… I..

Fisk:  [inaudible]. I don’t know.

Actually, Fluke testified that “contraception can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school,” which would make the annual spending closer to $1,000. But it’s hard to imagine that this would make any difference to Lakey. In fact, initially Lakey thought the figure was $1,000 per year.

But, to be fair, Lakey told his audience he was joking, straight up, during his show. “We make fun of Ms. Fluke,” he said. Limbaugh explained later that he was joking, and he apologized.

Here’s more of Lakey’s “fun” with Fuke’s congressional testimony:

Lakey: You know, her parents, her grandparents, all of her family has just got to be really proud.  (laughter in background)   They’ve got to be really proud about right now… (Impersonating Sandra Fluke’s grandfather)… “Oh, Sandra!  Oh, Sandra!  Oh, we’re so proud of you.  We’re so proud of that Congressional testimony you had.  So happy!  Oh, Granpa’s happy.  Come give Granpa… a little hug!…

Lakey also said on the air that he thought the congressional hearing at which Fluke testified was a waste of time, a distraction from the core job of fixing the economy.  He called the hearing an “embarrassment” and he scolded House Republicans for allowing the hearing to occur at all.

“And the House committees are all chaired by Republicans,” he said. “And they said we’re gonna have a hearing about this?”

Lakey said:

Lakey: Now, I don’t know what kind of birth control the girl is using.  I don’t understand… Can you imagine, in these serious times that we live in, our Congress is having hearings with a young lady who has very frequent sexual encounters in college, and this is the Congressional testimony they get.  Amazing!  But birth control – I thought if you’re taking the birth control pill you go like monthly, and they give you the little spindle of the pills, and you time them out and take them daily, and you’re done.

Lakey apparently thought Obama’s call to Fluke was dumb, unless he was joking.

Lakey: This girl who in Congressional testimony, saying that she is having relations of a Bill Clinton proportion on a regular basis.  [Impersonating Clinton]:  “I did not have sexual relations….”  But she says, [still as Clinton] I did have a thousand dollars of sexual relations this year…”  And she’s doing that this year.  And Obama calls her to congratulate her and thank her for telling us. “Thanks for speaking out.”…Ms. Fluke gets a high five from President Obama.  “Thatta girl!”  It’s like a fraternity house around there.

As I write this, Lakey’s radio station, owned by Cumulus Media, prominently features Rush Limbaugh’s apology on its home page.

But there’s no apology from Lakey, who describes himself on his Facebook page as an “entrepreneur,” “humanitarian,” “former candidate for U.S. Congress in Colorado’s CD7, ” and “a frequent guest host for radio talk shows across the USA.”

Lakey did not respond to an email Monday asking if he’d apologized for his comments or if he thinks an apology is warranted.

Fisk told me in a telephone interview that Lakey is currently in Africa doing charity work, which could explain his not responding to me.

But Lakey also did not respond to my past requests for comments for blog posts about his comparing Michele Obama to Chewbacca and his laughing wildly when a caller compared Michele Obama to a character in The Planet of the Apes (though KVOR management did comment).

Fisk is not a regular co-host of Lakey’s show. He was a guest. He told me both he and Lakey thought Limbaugh’s apology was appropriate, and said so on the air. The banter about Fluke was intended to be like a “Saturday Night Live” skit, he said, pointing out that it has been over a week since the show aired and he doesn’t remember every minute of it.

“I think it was a discussion on the radio intended to actually look at what was said and to condemn words like whore and some of the other words that were used, and to make light of parts of it the same way a Saturday Night Live sketch would, but to clearly draw a line and say there were clearly some inappropriate things that were said on national radio,” Fisk told me.

Fisk has joined the show for its “Scotch and cigar segments in the past,” Lakey said on air, but I’ve never listened.

Listen here to excerpts, spliced together, of KVOR’s Lakey joking about Sandra Fluke 3-4-12

Jimmy Lakey Show (with guest Nathan Fisk), Excerpts of Commentary about Sandra Flukes testimony, March 4, 2012

JIMMY LAKEY:  The girl we’re talking about, obviously, is trying desperately to create a family, but not have any result… I …She’s uh…. A thousand dollars a year.  A thousand bucks a year on birth control.  Right?


JL:  Did I get this story right?

NF:   You did.  I don’t have a good answer for you, Jimmy.

JL:   Now, I don’t know what kind of birth control the girl is using.  I don’t understand… I didn’t ask.  They should have asked… Can you imagine, in these serious times that we live in, our Congress is having hearings with a young lady who has very frequent sexual encounters in college, and this is the Congressional testimony they get.  Amazing!  But birth control – I thought if you’re taking the birth control pill you go like monthly, and they give you the little spindle of the pills, and you time them out and take them daily, and you’re done.  That doesn’t… That’s twelve months a year, and that doesn’t total ….

NF:  Ummm

JL:  A day earlier now, President Obama called her to congratulate her.  (Laughs)  I mean, you,…this is such a strange story.  I mean, if I were Obama, you let Rush swim in it and whatever he’s got to do.  Rush can dig himself out. Rush is a big boy, and Rush will be just fine.  But now Obama’s out there… This girl who in Congressional testimony, saying that she is having relations of a Bill Clinton proportion on a regular basis.  (Impersonating Clinton):  “I did not have sexual relations….”  But she says, (still as Clinton) I did have a thousand dollars of sexual relations this year…”  And she’s doing that this year.  And Obama calls her to congratulate her and thank her for telling us. “Thanks for speaking out.”

NF:  Aren’t there more important things for Congress to be worried about?  Aren’t there more…ah…absolutely right-in-front-of-us kind of issues:  the economy, the election coming up, the Republicans running, whatever.  And we’re talking about this.  It doesn’t make any sense to me.

JL:  Makes absolu… for a Congressional hearing to be going on about this, it’s absolutely … ah… positively…. dee-gusting, is what I would say…


JL:  Well, evidently it’s reached presidential level and Ms. Fluke gets a high five from President Obama.  “Thatta girl!”  It’s like a fraternity house around there.

NF:  Don’t know what to tell you, Jimmy.

JL:  I don’t either.l..


JL:  All right, the calculations were off, my friends.  It’s worse than we thought.  Sandra Fluke spends three thousand dollars, not one thousand, she spends three thousand dollars a month on…ah… a year, on birth control.  That’s two hundred and….forty nine?

NF:  Two hundred and forty-nine dollars.

JL:  Two hundred and forty nine dollars a month.  That’s … Does that include the booze?  Does that include the cigarettes afterwards?  I mean, what does that include?

NF:  It’s gotta include something other than prophylactics, I’m sorry…

JL:  Does that include the hotel room?  Does that include….  I…

NF:  [inaudible] I don’t know.

JL:  What… whatever… I… Two hundred and forty-nine dollars a month…a year, on contraception….. uh, a month.  Two hundred and forty-nine dollars a month.  Three thousand dollars a year.  I’m going to post it on the Facebook fan page, the actual testimony of her wasting time and Congressional dollars and your tax dollars, uh, testifying before the Congress, in which she confesses to such…  You know, her parents, her grandparents, all of her family has just got to be really proud.  (laughter in background)   They’ve got to be really proud about right now… (Impersonating Sandra Fluke’s grandfather)  “Oh…”

NF:  Do we know where she’s from?  Do we know what state she is from?  Have we… have we seen this?

JL:  (Still impersonating Ms. Fluke’s grandfather): “Oh, Sandra!  Oh, Sandra!   Oh, we’re so proud of you.  We’re so proud of that Congressional testimony you had.  So happy!  Oh, Granpa’s happy.  Come give Granpa… a little hug!”  Is that a … Does that sound like Granpa?

NF:  (laughing)  That sounds nothing like Granpa.  (Both laughing)


JL:  Seriously, I think,…. We make fun of Ms. Fluke, but it is an embarrassment that the House … there was a House …this was a House committee, right?  And the House committees are all chaired by Republicans. And they said we’re gonna have a hearing about this…

NF:  And they said okay.  Instead of a hearing about our economy, instead of a hearing about jobs, instead of a hearing about … oh, about a million other things that are more important than this.

JL:  Yeah, I think that’s the point that could get lost on some things is um… is that this is John Boehner’s house!  These are Republicans!  This should have been shut down long before.  This should have never … we’re not,… because all they’re doing is playing into this nonsense that they’re trying to get the Republicans…They’re want to take the eyes of America off the economy, off of the failed policies of Barak Obama, and so they want us to be painted as a bunch of cooks, and talk about social issues, and that’s why they’ve been going after Santorum, that’s why they’ve been going after Romney and Gingrich, and all this stuff … They’re trying to get all the attention on social issues.  And whoever chaired this committee… I ought to find out who it is and give you his office phone number…. Really ought to have his committee chairmanship stripped, unless I’m …. Maybe I’m missing some explanation because this hearing happening was absolute ludicrous, I tell you, ludicrous!

NF:  Well, the phones are lighting up hotter than a sex pistol… (Lakey laughs)

Rosen should offer counterpoint to Suthers view that the legal decision allowing undocumented kids to attend public grade school is bogus

Monday, March 12th, 2012

KOA’s Mike Rosen agreed with Colorado Attorney General John Suthers Thursday that the legal decision forcing states to offer a grade-school education to undocumented children is bogus.

If you don’t think this tidbit deserves to be my first blog post of the week, you would be wrong.

Here’s what Suthers had to say on the topic, which came up during a discussion of the ASSET bill, granting a tuition break to children of illegal immigrants, which Suthers called the “a complete run around” of two federal statutes:

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers: For some incredible reason, in 1982, the United States Supreme Court in a case called Plyler v. Doe, I think it was a San Antonio case, said any child regardless of immigration status is eligible for a free primary or secondary education. I’ve never been able to find that in the United States Constitution, but they said it’s in the 14th Amendment.

Rosen: Yes, which was all about slavery by the way, but that’s another story.

The federal requirement to give a basic education to all children, regardless of immigration status, is a long-settled legal matter.

No reporter, no teacher, no chef, no mom, no dad, not even a Republican talk-radio host, should let Colorado’s top-dog lawyer trash this Supreme Court’s decision in favor of undocumented kids without any discussion or scrutiny whatsoever.

Too much is at stake. We’re talking about grade-school education for some of the most vulnerable children in our country. And Suthers’s unsympathetic tone on Rosen’s radio show seems to show that it’s not just the legal issues that bother him, but the notion that children of illegal immigrants should be offered a public-school education in the world’s richest nation.

Rosen should have Suthers back on his radio show to illuminate more details on this topic, and, meanwhile, Rosen should bring a guest on air who will defend the basic humanity — and legal reasoning — for giving undocumented children a public-school education.